Christmas can be a stressful time for all adults, with financial and social pressures weighing down on us more than usual.
And while we rush around trying to think of everything, we can tend to take our stress out on those closest to us.
According to sex and relationship expert Charisse Cooke, Christmas is the time of year when romantic relationships are put under greatest strain.
“It’s very tough. There are a lot of demands placed on couples, with extended family and children to think about, as well as very high expectations of what Christmas should be like,” Charisse, 44, told The Mirror.
She argues the intense strain many relationships are put under during the festive season could be one of the reasons for high rates of divorce in January.
Charisse, who has been working in therapy for two decades, focuses specifically on human relationships (both romantic and non-romantic).
During her 20 years in the industry she’s worked for rehab centres, family therapists and private practice. Now, she offers free relationship and sex resources on her website.
“I’m interested in how couples speak to each other, how they treat each other, how they demonstrate love to each other in terms of sex and physical touch,” she said.
Charisse believes a healthy sex life is the most important factor in maintaining a strong relationship – and if couples are ignoring issues in the bedroom, those issues will almost definitely spill over into other aspects of the relationship.
“Sex is often a stealth destroyer of relationships if things are not going well,” she explained.
“Often, within a couple, each person will have differing sex drives and desires. The person with the lowest desire controls how much sex takes place, so an imbalance already exists.
“That imbalance becomes even more pronounced if their sex life isn’t good.
“Any couples therapist will say that if you can get sex right it takes care of a lot of the other problems connected with it, like feeling valued and secure in the relationship.”
As we enter the festive season, Charisse thinks many preoccupied couples can fall into the trap of neglecting their sex lives while they dream up ideas of the “perfect” Christmas – which aren’t helped by social media and films.
“It’s also a time that’s about family – and there aren’t many other times in the year that are so much about coming together as a family.”
She added many people project ideas of a perfect, harmonious family from their childhood onto their partners.
Charisse said: “This holiday that’s specifically about family becomes a melting pot of all our wishes, young and old. But it’s unrealistic.”
In order to combat the pressures this time of year can bring, Charisse has set a challenge for couples to keep the spark alive, making sure they dedicate time to their sex lives:
- Sex for breakfast – By starting the day off with a bit of fun, Charisse reckons you can keep your partner thinking about you all day
- Mix up locations – The expert thinks keeping things fresh is important, and suggests getting steamy in different parts of the house like the shower or the stairs – or even underneath the Christmas tree
- Stay moisturised – Charisse recommends carrying around lubricant so you and your partner are always well prepared prepared if the feeling takes you
- Treats for dessert – Everyone loves a sweet treat, and Charisse says you can inject passion into your relationship by enjoying chocolate, mince pies and Bailey’s – off your partner’s naked body
- No sex, no sleep – If you and your partner haven’t managed to be intimate all day, Charisse sees no problem with squeezing in a quickie before bedtime
“I want the tips to be an exciting challenge. I don’t want it to feel like another chore,” she said.
For those who really don’t have time to squeeze in extra sex during the Christmas period, she recommends at least being as flirty as possible with your partner.
“Bring in the flirting and more sex will come in January. You may not be able to have sex but I still want you to see your partner as a over.
“From that place, bring the sexual energy into the relationship,” she said.
Charisse hopes her five top tips will be a start in injecting passion back into relationships that might be struggling.
“Sex is a very easy win to get that back, then you can build on that whole resource to tackle other issues that are ongoing.
“As a therapist, I like to focus on solutions. There’s a more united front, more goodwill and more togetherness when you’re sexually close and enjoying each other.”